The Environmental Protection Agency is taking public comments until March 14 on its proposed decision to establish tolerances for the use of streptomycin in/on citrus fruit.
The proposal has generated 25,000 comments over the time it has been considered.
Streptomycin can help combat the spread of citrus greening, though it won’t cure the disease.
Check out the balanced coverage from the Fresno Bee on the topic of the use of antibiotics on citrus.
Here are some comments at regulations.gov on the proposal:
From comment submitted by Steven Roach, Keep Antibiotics Working:
Find the attached comments of Keep Antibiotics Working opposing the approval of new uses of streptomycin in citrus crops unless EPA adequately addresses the risk to the environment, workers, and consumers from this potentially massive expansion of the use of this highly important antibiotic. EPA anticipates that citrus growers will use 1.02 pounds of streptomycin annually per acre. Applied to the total U.S. citrus crop of 764,000 acres or almost 1200 square miles.
This will result in 353,475 kilograms per year of active ingredient. This means that 22 times more streptomycin would be used use in citrus than on all other crops. This amount is 54 times the total amount of the 6,485 kilograms of aminoglycosides used in human medicine and 1.4 times the 259,184 kilograms sold for use in animals in 2017. Such a massive increase in the use of this highly important antibiotic requires much more care than EPA has so far taken.
Formed in 2001, KAW is a coalition of advocacy groups that joined to ensure that untreatable superbugs resulting from the overuse of antibiotics on farms do not reverse the medical advances of the past century.
The group Beyond Pesticides is also orchestrating a cut-and-paste email campaign for its supporters to write to the EPA and object to the use of antibiotics on citrus.
Here is an example of one anonymous public comment found on the regulations.gov website:
While I can understand the very real threat that citrus greening disease is to the citrus farming community, I am also very leery of the idea of using Streptomycin, or any other such antibiotic, as a means of addressing the problem. The emergence of antibiotic resistant bacteria is one of the most significant challenges facing modern medicine today. The potential of increasing the use one family of antibiotics in this manner can only worsen this challenge to modern medicine. Worse, there is no guarantee that the proposed solution will be a permanent solution as there is a strong likelihood that the bacteria for the citrus greening disease will develop resistance to the Streptomycin family of antibiotics which would necessitate higher application doses with each new outbreak up to the point that the bacteria becomes fully resistant. Unfortunately, depending upon how and when the Streptomycin is applied, this resistance could develop within a time period of just a few years, especially if the antibiotic is used in a prophylactic mode rather than as part of coordinated response to an infestation.
In summary, in my opinion the risks of exasperating an existing crisis in human medicine (the emergence of antibiotic resistant human pathogens) outweigh what will very likely be a temporary solution to the problem of citrus greening pollution.
TK: By the time the comment period expires in March, let’s hope the Environmental Protection Agency hears from the thousands of anonymous public comments, but also from the industry leaders willing to advocate for the tool to fight citrus greening. And then the agency must make its final call.